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Raktanchal review: After a gripping start, this gangster series loses steam

Release Date: 28 May 2020

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Suyog Zore

Directed by Ritam Srivastav, the crime show is based in Uttar Pradesh's Purvanchal region in the 1980s, when bidding for government tenders was a public affair.

The year is 1986, the setting is a small town in Uttar Pradesh. Some people have gathered at the local government office to submit their tenders for projects, but the officer has already awarded the work to Waseem Khan (Nikitin Dheer) without conducting an auction.

This was a time when government projects were allotted through public bidding. Khan is the king of the tender mafia and secures all government projects by bribing officials. This has been going on for years and nobody has ever dared to stand up to him. Until Vijay Singh (Kranti Prakash Jha) arrives.

Vijay Singh dares to challenge Waseem Khan, setting off a gang war whose impact echoes for years and changes the political landscape of the state. Vijay Singh's motivation for going after Khan is personal. But taking down Khan is not an easy task as the gangster enjoys the backing of a ruling party legislator, Pujari Singh (Ravi Khanvilkar), and has tonnes of money that he has hoarded over the years through illegal activities like smuggling of firearms.

Vijay Singh, on the other hand, has the support of his uncle Bechan (Chittaranjan Tripathy) and cousin Chhunnu (Basu Soni), besides the sheer will to overthrow Khan's criminal empire.

The series starts promisingly as we are transported directly into the middle of the conflict. Sanjeev K Rajat, Sarvesh Upadhyay and Shashank Raai, who have worked on the script, introduce various tropes, used in other web-series and films on the same theme.  The nexus of politicians and gangsters is something we have seen many times before. Raktanchal explores the same theme.

The web-series holds our attention initially because of its raw energy. But as the story progresses, it loses steam. We also tire of watching the same type of characters and subplots.

The show spends a significant amount of time on flashbacks, which tell how Vijay Singh, who aspired to become a civil servant, ended up becoming a gangster. The extended flashbacks help us to understand his motives and root for him. But once Vijay Singh's motivation for going after Waseem Khan is established, there does not seem to be any reason to spend so much of the runtime on the flashback sequences. After a point, instead of adding anything substantial to the story, they tend to break the narrative flow.

The script gives a proper arc to Vijay Singh's character, which helps us to empathize with him despite his many questionable actions. Kranti Prakash Jha does a good job of bringing forth Vijay Singh's emotional as well as cold-blooded sides. But his adversary, Nikitin Dheer's Waseem Khan, doesn't get the same courtesy.

Khan is a unidimensional character. As a result, Dheer does not get any chance to explore the character. His huge, broad-chested, muscular figure is enough to strike terror in his enemies. However, director Ritam Srivastav's decision to make him a short-tempered guy who likes to yell profanities on every occasion does not suit the character.

The first season of this nine-part web-series on the OTT platform MX Player ends on a cliffhanger, promising a second season. Despite its shortcomings, one can give it a try if one has nothing else to watch.

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